ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Missing their All-Star starter and slugger among others, the Houston Astros are still in a familiar spot: poised to win a series against their rivals and surprise AL West leaders, the Texas Rangers.
Chas McCormick lined a tiebreaking triple with two outs and the bases loaded in the eighth inning, and the Astros hung on for a 5-3 victory in a Texas showdown matching the division's top two teams.
The win came about the same time left-hander Framber Valdez, who was skipped as the starter Sunday because of soreness in his sprained right ankle, and Yordan Alvarez were named to the AL All-Star team.
Valdez isn't expected to miss another start, and is lined up to be considered for that role July 11 in Seattle. Alvarez, who has an oblique injury, won't be back with the defending World Series champs until mid-July at the earliest.
The Astros are guaranteed at least a split of this four-game series, with the finale Monday, despite shortstop Jeremy Peña missing the first three with a stiff neck. He expects to return soon.
The Rangers, whose series victory in April was their first in Houston since 2018, won't get a chance to win consecutive sets against the Astros for the first time since early 2019.
“This club, they like to win,” Houston manager Dusty Baker said. “And they know how to win. No matter who we put out there, we expect them to do the job, even though they might not do as good a job as the people they’re replacing. But just do what you’re capable of doing and do what it takes to help us win.”
McCormick's opposite-field hit over a racing Adolis García into the right-field corner came an inning after Aroldis Chapman made his Texas debut with two strikeouts in a scoreless inning.
Josh Sborz replaced the hard-throwing Cuban left-hander and allowed José Abreu's third hit, an infield single, before walks to Mauricio Dubón and Corey Julks.
It was the first time in 26 outings this season Sborz (4-3) allowed multiple walks, and McCormick sent the next pitch off the top of the wall in the angled corner near the right field foul pole.
A half-inning earlier, McCormick helped preserve the 1-1 tie with a sliding catch in shallow center field with a runner on to end the Texas seventh.
After Nathaniel Lowe followed Corey Seager's leadoff double in the eighth with a homer to get Texas within a run, José Altuve led off the ninth with his second homer of the series.
The first from Altuve opened the game in a 5-3 Houston victory to start the series, which was followed by a 5-2 Texas win.
“A lot of baseball to be played,” Rangers manager Bruce Bochy said. “These guys have already shown they're able to put a game like this behind them. You have no choice in this game, and that's what we'll do.”
Two days after Texas acquired him from Kansas City, Chapman was the most notable of nine relievers combined for both teams in a game the Astros had to turn over to their bullpen without Valdez.
Shawn Dubin made his first career big league start in place of the lefty.
The 27-year-old right-hander went four innings, allowing one run when García's pop up down the line in right was caught by Abreu as the first baseman ran with his back to home plate. He turned and threw quickly, but Seager scored easily.
Parker Mushinski, who was recalled from Triple-A Sugar Land while rookie starter Ronel Blanco went down, was the first of five Houston relievers to throw an inning apiece.
Hector Neris (4-2) got the win with two strikeouts in a scoreless seventh, and Ryan Pressly pitched a perfect ninth for his 17th save.
Texas starter Andrew Heaney threw five scoreless innings with eight strikeouts.
The once-dominant closer pitched the seventh. Chapman’s fastball was consistently around 99, and two of his sinkers surpassed the century mark.
The 35-year-old struck out McCormick and Martín Maldonado at the bottom of the border before Altuve singled and Alex Bregman sent a hard shot past Chapman’s headed that Marcus Semien fielded near second base for the groundout.
After letting the Rangers climb within a run without getting an out, reliever Bryan Abreu retired three consecutive All-Stars to get out of the eighth.
The right-hander struck out García, who was named to the team Sunday along with 10-game winner Nathan Eovaldi, before getting a pair of All-Star starters: third baseman Josh Jung on a strikeout and catcher Jonah Heim on a flyout.
Astros: Alvarez took batting practice in a cage for the first time since being sidelined by a right oblique injury June 8. He said his level of intensity was roughly 60%.
Rangers: RHP José Leclerc (right ankle sprain) is headed to Double-A Frisco on a rehab assignment. He is eligible to come off the 15-day injured list Thursday.
Houston RHP Cristian Javier (7-1, 3.72 ERA) is set for the finale of the four-game series against Texas lefty Martín Pérez (7-3, 4.28). Javier has four consecutive no-decisions, allowing 10 runs in 6 1/3 innings over his previous two starts. Perez won at Houston on April 14 to improve to 5-5 in his career against the Astros.